Winnipeg filmmakers win coveted spot at Toronto International Film Festival

Four young Winnipeg filmmakers have won a coveted spot at the Toronto International Film Festival, and they did it using diapers, pop star obsession and a botched plastic surgery.

The short film Imitations will premiere Sept. 9 at TIFF

Milos Mitrovic, 26, Ian Bawa, 30 and Fabian Velasco and Markus Henkel, both 28.

Four young Winnipeg filmmakers have won a coveted spot at the Toronto International Film Festival, and they did it using diapers, pop star obsession and a botched plastic surgery.

Imitations is a 10-minute film by Ian Bawa, 30, Milos Mitrovic, 26, Markus Henkel and Fabian Velasco, both 28.

Landing a film at TIFF is not easy. It ranks alongside Cannes and Sundance as one of the pinnacle film festivals in the world. 

"It's extremely rare and it's a really great achievement for these guys," said Cecilia Araneda, executive director of the Winnipeg Film Group, which awarded the filmmakers a $2,000 grant to make their film.

"For a Manitoba filmmaker, especially filmmakers who aren't currently at the caliber of Guy Maddin … it's probably one of the highest achievements you can get."

The annual film festival runs Sept. 8 to 18 in downtown Toronto and attracts top film industry people and megawatt stars from around the globe. The festival is also a meet-and-greet bonanza for industry insiders.

Imitations will premiere Sept. 9 in Toronto. Bawa, Mitrovic, Henkel and Velasco will be at the screening.

"It's really exciting. We're thrilled," said Bawa.

"It's amazing. But once you get into a film festival you're kind of in disbelief a bit and you think, 'When I finish this film festival, I have to make another movie,'" Mitrovic said.

The quartet began working together three years ago. 

"We're basically just friends, we hang out, we're friends who like to hang out. We make films together," said Bawa.

They have made three short films together, including Imitations, which follows Arnold, a super fan obsessed with Austin Kelsey, a Justin Bieber-like pop star.

Arnold, who is played by Mitrovic, gets plastic surgery to look like Kelsey and the dark comedy evolves from there.

A still shot from the short film, Imitations.

Each of the four men bring different skill sets to filmmaking, which is why they work so well together, Bawa said. They write; produce, direct, act, shoot, edit and do all post-production of their films with very little money.

Their future looks bright, WFG's executive director Araneda said.

Getting into TIFF, especially so early in any filmmaker's career, bodes well for their longevity in the industry, she said.

"These guys are young, and they've got their whole careers ahead of them," said Araneda. "We're super excited to see what they do next."